The Lions are 'bigger than the All Blacks' says Sir Ian McGeechan

Warren Gatland's side tour Australia this summer

Sir Ian McGeechan reckons the British and Irish Lions are bigger than the All Blacks when it comes to box office and wants to see the game's administrators give them the support they deserve.

McGeechan, coach of the last successful Lions party in South Africa in 1997, fears their chances of success in Australia could be jeopardised by a lack of preparation time.

Both the Aviva Premiership and the RaboDirect Pro12 finals take place on Saturday, May 25 - 24 hours before the Lions depart for their six-week trip, the shortest lead-in time to a Lions tour in their 125-year history.

On top of that, the French Top 14 title decider will be held on June 1, the day the Lions play the first of their 10 matches against the Barbarians in Hong Kong, which will almost certainly rule Toulon's Jonny Wilkinson out of the reckoning when head coach Warren Gatland unveils his squad on Tuesday.

"For the players the Lions is the biggest jersey they can wear," McGeechan said. "All I would like to see is rugby administrators giving them the best fighting chance with an extra week's preparation.

"The first two or three weeks will be critical in Warren Gatland being able to get all the players together and on the same wavelength.

"By week five, you are looking at preparing for a Test match. My philosophy was to give every player the opportunity to show what he can do in a Lions jersey so they have to be playing in those first four weeks.

"As a coach, not only is time a challenge but so actually keeping your powder dry as to what you think the best combinations are and then really going for it that week before the Test match."

Despite the plethora of international matches and increasing focus on the World Cup, McGeechan believes the Lions tour remains as relevant as ever as he prepares to make his eighth trip to the southern hemisphere.

"If you've got a team that go halfway around the world and take 35,000 people with it to support it, then in the year it exists it's the biggest team in world rugby," he said.

"It's bigger than the All Blacks, it's an absolute phenomenon.

"When the game went professional in 1997, the tour was a critical one and winning that series in South Africa established the Lions when there were question marks about whether they could exist in a professional era.

"They've just gone from strength to strength. For Australia, they see it as their biggest rugby event. There's a big impact on the countries where the Lions go."

PA

 

Arts and Entertainment
The first film introduced Daniel Radcliffe to our screens, pictured here as he prepares to board the train to Hogwarts for the first time.
booksHow reading Harry Potter helps children grow up to be gay-friendly
Sport
Frank Lampard will pass Billy Wright and equal Bobby Charton’s caps tally of 106 caps against
sportFormer Chelsea midfielder in Etihad stopgap before New York contract
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Aladdin is performed at the Tony Awards in New York in June
theatreBrit producer Lythgoe makes kids' musical comedy a Los Angeles hit
Sport
Usain Bolt of Jamaica smiles and shakes hands with a competitor after Jamaica won their first heat in the men's 4x100m relay
sport
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Chancellor George Osborne, along with the Prime Minister, have been 'complacently claiming the economy is now fixed', according to shadow Chancellor Ed Balls
i100... which is awkward, because he is their boss, after all
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Adèle Exarchopoulos and Léa Seydoux play teeneage lovers in the French erotic drama 'Blue Is The Warmest Colour' - The survey found four times as many women admitting to same-sex experiences than 20 years ago
filmBlue Is The Warmest Colour, Bojack Horseman and Hobbit on the way
News
Kenny Ireland, pictured in 2010.
peopleBenidorm actor was just 68
Arts and Entertainment
Preparations begin for Edinburgh Festival 2014
Edinburgh festivalAll the best shows to see at Edinburgh this year
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

In grandfather's footsteps

5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

Martha Stewart has flying robot

The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

The dining car makes a comeback

Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

Gallery rage

How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

Eye on the prize

Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

Women's rugby

Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup
Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices